How to Make a 29% Increase Look Bigger: The Unit Effect in Option Comparisons
Quantitative information can appear in different units (e.g., 7-year warranty = 84-month warranty). This article demonstrates that attribute differences appear larger on scales with a higher number of units; expressing quality information on such an expanded scale makes consumers switch to a higher-quality option. Testifying to its practical importance, expressing the energy content of snacks in kilojoules rather than kilocalories increases the choice of a healthy snack. The unit effect occurs because consumers focus on the number rather than the type of units in which information is expressed (numerosity effect). Therefore, reminding consumers of alternative units in which information can be expressed eliminates the unit effect. Finally, the unit effect moderates relative thinking: consumers are more sensitive to relative attribute differences when the attribute is expressed on expanded scales. The relation with anchoring and implications for temporal discounting and loyalty programs are discussed.
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